How fast could COVID-19 spread in a crowd? UT researcher weighs in after SXSW cancellation

News

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The average time between one person getting sick and the next in the “chain of transmission” for COVID-19?

Four days.

Dr. Lauren Meyers, a professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin, is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to track how just how quickly the disease is spreading.

“We analyzed some of the very early data coming out of Wuhan, China, and we estimated that the number of new cases was doubling approximately once a week,” Meyers said. “They hadn’t yet implemented widespread intervention, so that’s sort of worst case scenario before you try to control the spread.”

BACKGROUND: SXSW Canceled: 2020 festival will not be held amid COVID-19 concerns

She said, however, there is evidence this coronavirus is spreading more quickly than other coronaviruses that have been recent threats, including SARS and MERS.

The other main concern with COVID-19?

In some cases, it’s spreading silently.

“At least a small fraction of people are spreading disease before we know they are sick, before they feel sick,” Meyers said.

In their research, they collected data from 450 cases across 93 cities in China. They found more than 10% were most likely infected by someone who was’t showing symptoms yet.

She said when it comes to mass gatherings, that’s a big concern.

“In my opinion, based on what we understand as scientists about how quickly this disease is spreading — the potential severity of this virus — it was a very prudent decision on the part of the city and South by Southwest to protect our population in this way.”

Dr. Lauren Meyers, UT Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin

Meyers said the situation is “escalating” and intervention measures like this cancellation are key to stopping the spread.

“It was a way to not only protect the city of Austin from introductions and the spread of COVID-19,” Meyers said, “but also to prevent the geographic expansion that can happen when you get a bunch of people coming from all over the world, then returning to their homes a week later.”

Travel-based research

Earlier this year, Meyer teamed up with the CDC to build a model of travel data to answer one main question: How many people left Wuhan for other cities around China before they implemented the quarantine there?

MORE ON THIS STUDY: UT researchers work to understand coronavirus outbreak

Their data showed 131 cities, or more, had at least a 50% chance of having an infected case arrive before the quarantine in China.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending on WKBN.com